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Faculty and Staff

2022 Plant and Microbial Biology Departmental Awards and Recognitions

plant planted in ice cream cone

Each spring, the PMB community comes together to celebrate the accomplishments of its members, give special recognition to award-winners, and bid fond farewells to graduating students and others departing for their next adventures. After two years of COVID-related restrictions, we were finally able to come together in-person again to celebrate together and enjoy some ice cream!

‘The Scoop’ from the Department Head

It is almost summer, and it is time for another Ice Cream Social newsletter featuring some of the many successes that our departmental members have worked hard to achieve in the past year. The newsletter also highlights many of the individuals who are new to our department. It was great to see many of you at the Ice Cream Social event last week, our first in-person Ice Cream Social since the pandemic started. I look forward to more opportunities to gather as a department in the coming year.

I also want to congratulate all of the students who are graduating and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. I look forward to celebrating with you during the upcoming departmental graduation celebration. To all, I hope you have a great summer filled with vacations, relaxation, and ice cream.

-Bob Franks

college of PMB faculty and students at Spring Awards Ceremony

Plant Biology Undergraduate Student Awards and Recognition

At the end of each academic year, the Undergraduate Program Committee gives awards to recognize exceptional graduating seniors and continuing students. For more information about the awards and recipients, please click on the name of the award.

Awards for Graduating Seniors

Awards for Continuing Students


  • Genetics and Genomics Academy Summer Research Team Mini-Grant Award: Caroline Batten
  • The Botany Club held regular in-person meetings throughout the 2021-2022 academic year. Meeting participants engaged in a number of activities organized by the club officers including: propagating plants for dorm and apartment living, a campus plant scavenger hunt, making plant “crafts” using natural products, pumpkin carving and painting, and the club’s annual plant/seed exchange. They also hosted multiple guest speakers and capped off the year with a daytrip to Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham.
    The Plant Biology Undergraduate Program recognizes the hard work of this year’s Botany Club Officer Team:
    President – Morgan Cantrell
    Vice President – Sydney Buck
    Secretary/Treasurer – Seline Pons
    Agri-Life Council Representatives: Helen Nocito, Sallie Talyor-Parker (fall), and Jackson Cooper (spring)

The 2022-2023 Botany Club Officers are:
President – Jackson Cooper
Vice President – Sydney Buck
Secretary/Treasurer – Seline Pons
Agri-Life Council Representatives: Helen Nocito and Zoe Curtis

Plant Biology Graduate Student Awards and Recognition

Every year, the PMB Department recognizes the exemplary work of graduate students who have been awarded internal departmental awards, as well as external awards. For more information about the awards and recipients, please click on the name of the award.


Larry Blanton presenting Aurora with award
Anna Yaschenko in lab
Anna Yaschenko working in Lab.


  • Kaleb Goff was recognized with an Honorable Mention for the 2022 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Anna Dye received third place recognition at the North Carolina Graduate Research and Policy Expo for her work with the UK consulate under the auspices of a National Science Policy Network SciDEAL Internship.

Masters of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB)

This Spring, the MMB program has 15 graduating students. These students completed and presented on their Capstone Projects.

Additionally, the MMB program partnered with several companies this semester: InSoma Bio, Galaxy Diagnostics, and Phaxtec. MMB students worked with these partner companies over the course of the semester and completed their Spring practicum projects. Thank you to all of our MMB partners for their continued support in providing meaningful industry-related experiences to our students through guest lectures and practicum projects!

Faculty Awards and Announcements

  • Dr. Candace Haigler became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Dr. Cranos Williams was named a Goodnight Distinguished Professor in Agricultural Analytics 
  • Dr. Bill Hoffman was nominated for the Jackson Rigney International Service Award.
  • Dr. Orlando Arguello-Miranda joined the department as an Assistant Professor.
  • Dr. Ross Sozzani was promoted to full professor

Staff Announcements and Recognition

  • Dwayne Barnes received the CALS Award for Excellence
  • Lauren Gore recently joined the department staff as the Social Media and Communications Assistant. Lauren will be the source of PMB Twitter and LinkedIn posts, the newsletters, and website updates. Please email her ( if you have research announcements, activities or programs of interest that you would like to share on our social media or through a news post.
  • The PMB department would also like to bid a fond farewell to our Social Media and Communications Assistant, Alex Goodnight. Thank you for all your contributions to the department and the PMB program. We wish her all the best working with the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative!

Lab Announcements and Publications

Alonso-Stepanova Lab

Please join the Alonso-Stepanova Lab in Congratulating the following teams from their Lab for receiving the Genetics and Genomics Academy Summer Research Team Mini-Grant Award:

  • Matt Neubauer (postdoc) and Alex Marchi (undergrad)
  • Hao Chen (postdoc) and Amanda Merkel (undergrad)
  • Chengsong Zhao (research scholar) and Caroline Batten (undergrad)

Additionally, Congratulations to 2 postdocs from the Lab, Hao Chen and Mario Fenech, for both receiving the Genetics and Genomics Academy travel grant to attend the 2022 Plant Biology Conference in Portland, Oregon.

The Lab has four new publications to share:

Bruno-Bárcena Lab

The Bruno-Bárcena Lab would like to welcome two new graduate students; Trenton Owens, a first-year student in the Microbiology Ph.D. program, and Madison Moore, a third-year student in the Functional Genomics Ph.D. program. Both are members of the Genetics and Genomics Fellowship (Trenton – 2021 cohort and Madison – 2020 cohort). 

Also, Congratulations to José and his lab for winning a second place Daugherty Endowment Awards at the eGames this spring for Mammae Biosciences Inc.

Jose wins second place at the eGames

Haigler Lab

Ali Wrobleski, an M.R. student, has joined the Haigler lab and is assisting with research on the control of cotton fiber cell shape. She is a teaching assistant for the department.

The Haigler Lab would also like to Congratulate Ben Graham, a PMB alumn and postdoc in the Haigler Lab, who was selected as the winner of the “Cheers to You! CSSC employee award!” from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. This award recognizes outstanding work among the department’s employees.

Also, Congratulations to Ethan Pierce, the Haigler Lab manager and another PMB alumn, for receiving the 2022 CALS Excellence in Safety Award! Ethan is one of two people in the college to receive this award, which recognizes his ‘above and beyond’ work to train users and manage the departmental autoclave in the Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences.

Hawkes Lab

The Hawkes Lab is welcoming several new postdocs: Mara DeMers, Noah Luecke, and Luciana Bachega; and several new research technicians: Devlyn Anderson, Kimberlea Harris, and Shelby Williford.

Krings Lab

The Krings Lab is welcoming several new undergraduates: Elijah Bradshaw (Environmental Science) will be working on comparative habitat assessment of Ptelea trifoliata, Hannah Cabell (Environmental Science/Plant Biology) will be working on vegetative identification of sapling pines of Piedmont grasslands, and Claire Melvin (Natural Resources) will be working on rare species surveys with focus on Scutellaria nervosa.

The Krings Lab would also like to welcome a new undergraduate to the Herbarium: Clancy Larmour (Life Sciences), will be assisting with mounting and digitization.

The Krings Lab has two new publications to share:

Long Lab

The Long Lab recently received an NSF Award using mathematical modeling approaches to study iron homeostasis in plants, “Collaborative Research: Living on the Edge – Quantitative Systems Physiology of Iron Homeostasis”. This is a collaborative award between NCSU and the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Congratulations!

Miller Lab

The Miller Lab has two new publications to share:

Petry Lab

Please join the Petry Lab in Congratulating Melina Keighron on her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Award!

The Petry Lab would also like to welcome their new Research Specialist, Nicole Esch.

Sheth Lab

The Sheth Lab would like to welcome their new undergraduate research assistant, Sophie Meng.

Congratulations to Dr. Seema Sheth for her recent grant award:

  • NSF, DEB, 2022-2025, Total: $1,452,695 ($509,734 to NCSU). Collaborative Research: BEE: Integrating evolutionary genetics and population ecology to detect contemporary adaptation to climate change across a species range (lead PI). co-PIs: Chris Muir (U. of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa), Lluvia Flores-Rentería (San Diego State U.), Jason Sexton (U. of California, Merced), and Jeff Diez (U. of Oregon).

The Lab has new publications, led by former lab members, to share:

The Sheth Lab would also like to recognize Kaleb Goff for his multiple awards, as well as a paper that was published based on his undergrad research project at UC Santa Cruz:

Kaleb Goff out in the field
Kaleb Goff out in the field.

Sozzani Lab

The Sozzani Lab would like to welcome several new members. Julianne Nolan has joined the Lab as a Lab Manager. Jasmine Peace is an undergraduate student that has joined the lab and is working with STEPS in the REU summer program to research increasing phosphate availability in plants. Lastly, Thomas Nguyen has returned to the Sozzani Lab after receiving a M.S. in Plant Biology and completing a Masters Program in the BESE (Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division) at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology).

The Sozzani Lab is also bidding farewell to Aitch Hunt, who recently graduated with 2 bachelors degrees in Art & Design and Plant Biology. Aitch has been accepted into TU Delft’s M.S. Integrated Product Design Program.

The Lab has multiple new publications to share:

Xie Lab

Please join the Xie Lab in wishing Congratulations to Emily Ye, an undergraduate student in the lab, for winning the Spring 2022 Research Award from the Office of Undergraduate Research. Emily won funds for her project: Characterization of Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Metabolite Profiles in Various End Products of Green Teas.

Plant and Microbial Biology Spring 2022 Graduates

The PMB department commends you all on your resilience and perseverance in completing your degrees. Congratulations Graduates! Good luck on all your future endeavors.

As COVID restrictions are lifted and life returns to a more “normal” routine, PMB continues to move forward. Please stay safe and have a wonderful summer! Thank you to all who contributed to our Ice Cream Social and Newsletter this year!

From the PMB Social Committee: Dr. Chad Jordan, Ms. Anne-Marie Noblitt, Ms. Rachel Clark, Dr. Alex Goodnight, and Committee Co-Chairs, Ms. Catherine Freeman and Dr. Tom Wentworth

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